A key prosecution witness in the Robert Blake case backed off of a claim that the actor tried to hire him for murder and admitted he was a heavy user of cocaine who had paranoid delusions.
Retired stuntman Gary McLarty, 64, told jurors Monday he met with Blake a few months before Bonny Lee Bakley was killed, but did not even know the woman's name afterward and had only "insinuated" that Blake wanted her dead.
"A lot of people want to strangle their wives at times," McLarty said, "and it was possible he was just venting his anger."
At a preliminary hearing, McLarty had testified Blake solicited the killing of his wife.
Under prosecution questioning Monday, McLarty said Blake complained to him about Bakley, showed him where she lived at his home, and pointed out a place where "someone could go up the stairs at night and pop her."
Asked if Blake led him to believe he wanted him to commit the crime, McLarty said, "It was obvious." But at another point McLarty said, "I insinuated it."
Prosecutor Shellie Samuels had another chance Tuesday to question McLarty and was expected to try to rehabilitate his credibility.
Defense attorney M. Gerald Schwartzbach on Monday pressed McLarty about what Blake had really said.
"Mr. Blake never actually said he wanted you to do something to Bonny Bakley at that time?" asked Schwartzbach.
"Yes, that's true," McLarty said.
Bakley, 44, was shot May 4, 2001, in Blake's car near a restaurant where the couple dined. The former "Baretta" TV star is charged with murder, soliciting others to commit a murder and lying in wait in the 2001 death of Bakley, the woman he married after learning he had fathered her baby.
Blake, 71, claims he found her bleeding after leaving her alone to return to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection.
McLarty gave different accounts of when he met with Blake, where they discussed certain things, whether Blake showed him a revolver or an automatic weapon and who first mentioned a fee of $10,000.
He also contradicted his own testimony at times. Earlier Monday, he said he decided to contact police 10 days after Bakley was killed because he feared there were telephone records of Blake calling him that might implicate him in the murder. But in the afternoon, he declared, "Mr. Blake never called me."
By Linda Deutsch